It's time to look to the future of Panther football. While fans, alumni, friends and former coaches and players will always have the past successes to look back at with pride, the question of what does the future hold for the Panthers program is not as clear. We are still awaiting the announcement of the new head coach at Ferrum, and while I have no insight as to who it will be, I have come up with a list of things that I think can help the program into the future.
Over the years, I have seen a Ferrum home football game become more of a modern event. Improvements to the field, a new scoreboard, the hedge, and tailgating... but sadly, there appears to be a somewhat fluctuating fan base. Over the last 6 seasons, I have looked at the attendance patterns of the home games, and this is what I have found.
The average attendance from 2005-2010 was 2167 per home game. Interestingly enough, Ferrum's best year for attendance over the last 6 seasons was in 2007 when the average attendance was 3002 per game. The second best year was in 2005 when Ferrum went to the playoffs. That year the average home attendance was 2714. In that six year span, the worst year for attendance was this past season in which the average home attendance was 1552. It is a proven fact that teams that are winning have higher attendance patterns, and I know that the economic conditions of the nation have caused people to scale back on spending and travel, but even when Ferrum was 9-0 in 2005, the last home game against Christopher Newport was only attended by 2384 people. This is not even 50% sold out with an undefeated team.
So if one is looking to the future of Ferrum football, one must try to find ways increase attendance patterns. The team, the football program, and in turn the College will benefit from a simple marketing of Ferrum football.
Here are some suggestions:
Make the game more fan friendly- Yes there is a 50-50 raffle, and that is good, but how about sponsorship of a field goal kicking contest. This could take on many forms, but I have seen a contest sponsored by Southwest Airlines called "Kick for the Sky Contest" where two fans in attendance are chosen at random and at halftime, are given the chance to kick three field goals from 10, 20, and 30 yards. If they hit all three, they win two round trip tickets anywhere Southwest Airlines flies. If they miss one, they lose, but still get a t-shirt for participating. This is just an example, and could be sponsored by a local restaurant, or motel, or any establishment with a prize to offer.
What about an ad in the program at Va. Tech Home games. It could identify times where Ferrum plays at home when Tech is on the road and invite fans to experience a DIII game while the Hokies are on the road. In this past season, this could have benefited attendance at 2 home games.
Is it possible to have a Pep Band at the games? I know over the years, Ferrum has utilized area high School bands, but why can't Ferrum have a band? Is this a cost issue? I am sure there are ways to finance this project, and this would make a more entertaining halftime, and game. I am not talking about a 200 piece marching band, but a 20-30 member pep band.
Game sponsorship by local merchants. There are almost always 5 home games on a schedule. Ferrum could seek sponsorship of these games by individual local merchants, and in turn, the advertisements that these companies would receive would be of benefit to them. Some that come to mind would be MW Windows and Doors in Rocky Mount. BB&T in Rocky Mount, and BB&T in Ferrum. Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, etc., etc.
These sponsors could be given a block of tickets, and they would be allowed to give the tickets away for free. This would possibly create a fan, and lead to future ticket sales.....I mean we are not selling out, so why not give a few tickets away- It would generate concession revenue, and more importantly it would generate good will. Imagine the exposure that Ferrum football would get if BB&T for example was a sponsor of a Ferrum home game, and on the Friday before the game, all of the tellers were wearing a Ferrum football t-shirt., with a button saying ask me about free tickets to the game.
Home game themes are also something that may be worth reviewing. While some games are already designated such as Family Weekend, Homecoming , and Senior Day, How about reviving Franklin County day, and possibly Military Appreciation Day.
Season Tickets need to be made available. This may be something that will take time to generate sales of, but it will happen. I would think that Ferrum could designate the center section of the stands for season ticket holders....Also there could be online ticket sales. This will be very convenient for fans that have to travel great distances, and for opposing teams fans.
What about a t-shirt launcher for the Home games. There could be T-shirts that have been specially made with the the F/Panther logo on the front, and a sponsoring agency's logo on the back....This is a write off for the sponsor.
Enhance the Online broadcast to include a live video feed. I am under the impression that this is in the works, and can be expected to be available in the near future. This will again get more exposure to the football program, and to a sponsor.
In short, more in attendance gets Ferrum more exposure. More exposure may mean a larger stable of athletes interested in Ferrum College athletics.
Ferrum needs to step out of the shadows, and get noticed. They are never going to be as large as Virginia Tech, nor do I think they should be, but I think increased exposure will help the program and the College overall. These are just some ideas I have had...I would be interested to see what other ideas are out there- Please leave a comment.